This fall I have been spending a lot of time outdoors so I thought I would investigate the health trend of forest bathing. Forest bathing is the practice of spending time connecting with nature through our senses with no specific destination in mind. Basically the medicine of being in the forest. As seen below, my son and I (along with my husband and our dog, Lennon) spent a wonderful Saturday in Warden Woods taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of fall in our beautiful city.
To be honest, I do a lot more wandering than I used to because of my now mobile and independent toddler so this was a great experience. Previous visits to Warden Woods included plotting a hike, putting on my workout gear and racing my dog to the brink of exhaustion. This time I chose to follow the lead of my little guy and just muck about on – and off – the trails picking up a few leaves and sticks along our way.
What is Forest Bathing?
According to the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, forest bathing, forest therapy, or shinrin yoku, was developed in Japan in the 1980s and is a "research-based framework for supporting healing and wellness through immersion in forests and other natural environments." Beginning as a campaign to protect the forests of Japan, it has evolved into a scientific investigation of the link between forests and human health.
So not a literal bath in the forest but literal tree hugging is encouraged!
How do I do it?
Honestly it is very simple, just take a stroll in a natural environment (preferably under a tree canopy) with no destination in mind. That is it! The great thing about forest bathing is that there is really no wrong way to do it. It is an open ended prescription for wellness so every individual can do what works best for them. You can choose the duration, location, and activity level as you see fit.
Looking for more concrete guidance? Here are a couple helpful, external links to help you plan your forest bathing experience:
What health benefits will I get out of it?
Personally, I found my experience forest bathing relaxing and humbling. It's interesting how little our brain perceives of our immediate surroundings when we are focused on a destination or distracted by a good digital audiobook. After my experience, my heart rate had slowed and I felt refreshed, similar to how I feel after a yoga practice.
Forest Bathing: The Start Here Guide for Beginners by Dr. Cyndi Gilbert. Regular print only
In her book, Dr. Cyndi Gilbert suggests that the practice of forest bathing allows you to breath in oxygen-rich air that is full of phytoncides (wood essential oils). It also increases your absorption of Vitamin D, something Canadians are often deficient in.
Some other health benefits, according to Dr. Qing Li, are:
- Improved mood
- Increased energy
- Boosted immune system
- Decreased anxiety, depression and anger
- Increased relaxation
- Lowered blood pressure
- Improved quality of sleep
How do I find out more?
Aside from the two books I already mentioned, here are the resources I found useful in preparing for my experience. An experience I look forward to repeating!
Forest Bathing: The Rejuvenating Practice of Shinrin Yoku by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles
"Forest bathing offers specific guidelines for finding replenishment among the trees – from turning off the phone to seeking irregularities in nature – which in turn can make us gentler toward the world and ourselves."
The Outdoor Adventurer's Guide to Forest Bathing by Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller. Regular print only
"The first and only guide to shinrin-yoku for the outdoor adventurer With techniques tailored for hiking, mountain biking, paddling, climbing, trail-running, and cross-country skiing, this is the definitive guide to applying the healthy and rejuvenating practice of forest bathing to your favorite activities."
And two bonus books to help encourage a love of trees (said the tree hugger!)
"A forester's fascinating stories, supported by the latest scientific research, reveal the extraordinary world of forests and illustrate how trees communicate and care for each other."
There's a children's edition of this book too, called Can You Hear the Trees Talking?
I once had a child in storytime tell me that the Giving Tree reminded him of his mother and I have never fully recovered.
Have you tried forest bathing or are you planning an outing? Comment below and tell me about your favourite places!